The National Association of State Directors of Special Education is preparing a blueprint for statewide RTI initiatives. Bill East, the organization’s executive director, spoke with Achievement Today about the concept of state-level approaches.
What is your organization’s involvement with RTI?
Some districts around the country have been using RTI for some time with varying degrees of success. And since we provide technical assistance to states we began to look for ways we could educate and provide assistance to our members as they started looking at RTI. Our most recent publications are blueprints for doing RTI at the district and school levels. A blueprint for doing RTI at the state level will be published very soon.
What do these blueprints cover?
It’s important to understand that RTI is not a curriculum and it’s not a program. It’s a process. Whether you do the process at the state, district or school level, there are three steps required for success. The first is consensus building, where you get everybody to buy into this. Then there is infrastructure building, where stakeholders look at what they’re doing and decide how to get the components of RTI operational. Then there’s the implementation stage, where they put the RTI process in place.
What is the concept behind a statewide RTI implementation?
Each state must decide how much they want to get involved in the RTI implementations. They can develop a statewide program where they will provide knowledge, skills and policies to local districts, and provide direction and leadership. Or they can simply give permission for the local districts to do RTI.
What is the benefit of a statewide approach?
The advantage of a statewide initiative is that it can be put into place much faster. If you have the state commissioner of education or the state board of education involved in the process, then it stands to reason that you can move faster from consensus building through the infrastructure building to implementation. It takes about three to four years to really get the implementation of RTI going the way it should be—if it starts at the top and everybody is involved. If it starts at the school level then it takes much longer. We also see that we have a better and greater understanding of the RTI process, with greater fidelity of implementation, when all three levels are involved, state, district and schools.
As you talk to state-level people about RTI, what are some of the concerns that come up?
The first is what I just mentioned: Do we make this a statewide initiative or do we just give the green lights for districts to do it? Another is, if we’re going to do it, how fast do we put it in place? Do we go slow to make sure we do it right or is there pressure to really move quickly? Our position is that if you want sustained effort that’s going to last, you need to take the time to do it right. Another concern is how to educate stakeholders. Our blueprints are very helpful in doing that. They address how to get buy-in from all educators so RTI won’t be just a special education initiative or a just a general education initiative, because of course it should be an all-education initiative.
Looking ahead three to five years, what will the landscape be like in terms of RTI?
This is the way of the future. It’s just a matter of time until all states will be implementing RTI in some way. There is great flexibility in RTI about how you do it as long as you follow certain components that are non-negotiable. States will take different paths, but they’ll adhere to those core components: progress monitoring, collecting data, making decisions based on that data, and so forth. There’s no question that RTI is the way of the future; the only question is how fast we get there.